NEWSTALK 1010 INVESTIGATES: Why do people continue to drink and drive?

Blurry at the wheel

It was a tearful plea from a mother, a daughter whose very identity was shattered by a drunk driver.

"When you choose to drink and drive, you're hurting other families," Jennifer Neville-Lake managed outside Newmarket's courthouse in March as Marco Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the crash that killed her three children and her father. "You're killing someone else's babies. Like mine were killed, like all of mine were killed," Neville-Lake continued while displaying a photo of her two youngest children, aged 2 and 5 grasping hands while on life support in hospital.

Her plea, it seems, has not been heard by the drivers in the region she made it in.

York Regional Police are poised to lay a record number of impaired driving charges in 2016.

Spilling out of pubs and restaurants and lining up for clubs on a Friday night in November, virtually no one would admit to driving impaired when questioned by NEWSTALK 1010.

For Antonio it's simple: "If I drive, I don't drink."

Peter tells NEWSTALK his transportation on nights out is almost always planned, not leaving anything up to chance.

"A designated driver, sometimes it's a taxicab, but most likely it's an Uber."

Many revellers will sheepishly confess they do have friends who drive after drinking.

Their reasons include not wanting to spend the night away from home and thrill-seeking with varying degrees of guilt after the fact.

Steve blames a sense of entitlement and lack of responsibility. Lucas thinks many drivers talk themselves out of the idea that there is a real risk they could hurt themselves or others.

"People feel as though they're so close to home...Like 'I'll drive two blocks to get home, it's alright man. What cop is going to pull me over?"

Cliff believes many people overestimate the control they have over their bodies after drinking.

"They think that one beer's not going to do anything to me and they just take a chance and they think they can handle it."

And the pattern can repeat itself.

" I don't think they even think about it. As long as they get home, they're like 'I'm okay so I'll be able to do it again,"

One man who would not provide his name to NEWSTALK 1010 swears he drives more carefully when he is intoxicated then when sober. "Intelligence overcomes intoxication sometimes," he says.

The wisdom from numerous police forces is that there no "safe" level of intoxication. Smart Serve Ontario, which trains alcohol servers and retailers states simply that impairment begins with the first drink

Still, the man who did not want to be named sees no problem with some drivers downing as many as six drinks before shifting out of park. He believes scores of impaired drivers are being punished because of the relative handful who crash or are caught by police.

Julian believes it is a fear of being stopped by police that keeps many people from driving drunk, more than a belief they could not make it home safely. He would like to see even more RIDE checks to prevent drinking and driving.

Expanded transit service with later-running buses and discounted fares were proposed by revellers to dissuade people from drinking and driving. Others suggest increased penalties for licensed establishments that over-serve their patrons and more public awareness campaigns.

York Regional Police Insp. Randy Slade tells NEWSTALK 1010 the key to shutting down drunk driving is making it socially unacceptable.

Peter sees it as a goal without an express route.

"It falls on being educated... (law enforcement) to be a presence to actually visually see that there will be consequences, and it also falls on the bar owners, the club owners, the people themselves, the people they're surrounded by. They all play a role."

with files from Michael Downey

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